Failure to Launch
Being November 11th, it was definitely getting late in the boating / beach season here in New England. I thought today would be my last day to go paddle boarding. I was sort of right…
My day started out like any other in. I packed my paddle into the bed of my truck and strapped my paddle board securely into the back of my truck. I was going for one last paddle. The season was getting colder by the day and the water was soon to follow.
With my wetsuit in my passenger seat and a cup of tea in my hand I headed down to the Connecticut shoreline. Today I would be launching from Guilford, CT. I had done some research online and noted some possible launch spots. I found a town beach but because it was Autumn and all the beaches had officially closed I knew parking wouldn’t be an issue.
I made it to the beach and immediately noticed that the wind was going to be a problem. When I left my house it was blowing 9 mph. I checked my phone as I was sitting in the truck and noted that the wind was blowing 18 mph and directly off shore!
Strong off shore winds create a very dangerous situation for even an experienced paddle boarder. Always pay attention to the wind and wind forcasts.
Although the wind was supposedly blowing 18 mph according to my little iphone weather app, the wind had to be way stronger. There were some gusts even stronger but the wind was strong enough to be blowing sand right off the beach. Yes, it was that strong.
I was concerned but I decided to give it a try for two reasons:
- I wasn’t paddling out to see but up a river that just happens to meet the Long Island Sound at my proposed launch point.
- This would probably be my last paddle of the season.
I carefully put on my shorty wetsuit in my truck. Not the easiest to do but I spared the women and child whom came down to observe to extremely windy conditions it seemed.
As soon as I opened the door the wind nearly took it off. Holy cow it was windy. I wasn’t even going to be able to get the board out without it blowing away. I had to turn my truck around and turn it into the wind. This way I could maneuver the SUP safely out of the bed of the truck without the wind blowing it away.
I got the board the few steps to the sandy beach and realized that I couldn’t even carry the thing. The wind was so strong the 11 foot paddle board was blowing and wiggling like a flag in the breeze. I’ve never experienced anything quite like this. I had to carry the board as close to the ground as possible and drop it and hold on as soon as I felt a stronger wind gust mount.
I had to be crazy, honestly.
I made it the short distance to the muddy shore. Apparently it was low tide. I guess I should have checked the tides but I was set on making my last journey I suppose.
I had to walk through about 40 feet of mud and sharp mussel shells. What a nightmare. I was holding onto the board so tight I didn’t have time to think about the paint my feet were going through.
I placed paddle board into the water, knelt down and paddled about 20 feet out. I could feel the wind pushing me out to see so hard.
I had a bad feeling. Something just didn’t seem right.
I was exhausted just getting into the water and realized I wasn’t really in control. Heck I didn’t even have a leash on. If my board got away from me in this wind there is no way I would have been able to get it. It would have blown right out to see.
I immediately turned the board around which wasn’t easy. I was paddle boarding for only about 10 seconds and I was already blown out about 100 feet by the wind. This was a bad idea folks. At least I was facing the shore.
On my knees I was paddling as hard as I could to make it back to the spot I launched from. I was barely moving and this was the start of my paddle. I can only imagine the predicament I would be in if I had let the wind take me our farther. That’s pretty scary to think about.
So I made it back to the muddy, shelly shore and fought my way up the beach. I was now heading directly into the wind and carrying the paddle board was out of the question. I actually had to drag it on the sand to get it back to my truck.
There was no question I was defeated by nature today. I’ve had some beautiful paddles this year but today wasn’t one of them. My last paddle of the season was a complete dud and lasted seconds.
After my adrenaline slowed down and my feet thawed out somewhat the pain settled in. I had some serious slices and punctures on the bottoms of my feet. I was exhausted and in much pain. I actually drove home in my wetsuit. In all of my years surfing and paddleboarding I have never done this. It was still dry and I was hurting.
I got home and some fresh water over my feet revealed just how wounded I was. It took a couple of weeks for the cuts on my feet to heal. I’ll be checking the wind forecasts and tide schedules a bit closer next time!